How parents can guide good choices

  • Jeanine Clarke Edmunds Courtesy photo—

Tuesday, February 20, 2018 9:34AM

Before I was a parent, I held preconceived ideas that I would “never do that when I have kids!” More times than not, I have done that very thing I had judged. Parenting continues to challenge me, and best of all, continues to shape me into a better human being. Along the way, I have gone from a woman who always looked to others for answers to a mother who has learned to trust the process of questioning, exploring, and looking inward and making decisions based on my own experiences and knowledge of certain situations.

It all started with the insecurities of being a new mother and learning to trust my gut. Most helpful was my involvement with The Grapevine Family & Community Resource Center’s Better Beginnings for Babies group (and later, Better Beginnings for Young Children group). Each of these groups met once a week, where I was able to interact with other parents and their children, along with a warm and knowledgeable facilitator, to discuss and explore successes and challenges we were facing.

As I became a more confident parent, I was able to make choices that felt right for our family and I could more easily act on them. These decisions were not always easy or natural. It took a lot of asking questions of myself and figuring out why I felt a certain way. It led to many discussions and exploration with my husband about our values, where they came from and why. It can be challenging when two different people with two very different upbringings come together to raise children of their own. There was no “right” answer – just “our” answer. We soon figured out that parenting was far from an easy thing and it seemed that once we got into a rhythm, a new stage began and we were faced with new issues and new decisions.

Another lesson I’ve learned along my parenting journey is that hard work pays off. Teaching my children how to process things and helping them to solve their own conflicts is one of the most helpful tools I’ve ever given them. Rehashing a problem they are unable to resolve, helping them with their words, reminding them of their body language or tone and practicing this over and over and over again has proven to be well worth the agonizing repetitiveness.. I have learned that a short while of persistence in this department prepares them for a lifetime of healthy relationships. It also helps me to continue to stay aware of my own body language and tone and to be a positive role model for them. I make it a point to verbally recognize and apologize for my faults, following it up with a promise to work on and change that behavior. I am extremely grateful for this early work as my son enters his teen years. It has helped to avoid many disagreements that could have become a real problem.

Beginning March 14, and for each successive Wednesday through April 11, I will be leading a Grapevine sponsored program for parents of 9- to 14-year-olds called Guiding Good Choices. Years ago, I was a student in this class. I owe a lot of my parenting successes to this program. It focuses on building family connection, talking about the hard stuff, looking at risk and protective factors, helping your children say “no” without losing their friends, and supporting deeper involvement within the family. By far, the most common feedback from parents who take the program is that they get to talk to other parents. Thanks to the generous funding support from Bank of New Hampshire, the cost of the program is kept to $15, which includes the family guide, pizza dinner and childcare for each session.

Please call The Grapevine to register at 588-2620 and mention if the fee is a challenge for you – scholarships are available. The program will meet at Great Brook School and is generously supported by Bank of New Hampshire.

Jeanine Clark-Edmunds is a Guiding Good Choices workshop leader with The Grapevine Family & Community Resource Center.